What determines the way in which roots provide carbon to and interact with other components of the soil? Roots lose metabolites and signal molecules to the soil at rates of significance to soil organisms, and we need to know if the mechanisms of passive diffusion identified in hydroponics apply in soil, and whether other, active mechanisms complement them. New insights from biosensors into the heterogeneity and localization of exudation are transforming our understanding of root––microorganism relations. We need to know more about compounds that are exuded at subnutritional rates in soil and may act as signal molecules modifying the biology of soil organisms. Insights into one suite of such compounds is coming from studies of border cells. These cells are lost from the root cap at a rate regulated by the root and secrete compounds that alter the environment of and gene expression in soil microorganisms and fauna. The amount of root places an upper limit on the effect roots can have; carbon flow to the rhizosphere is a function of root growth. Top-down metabolic control analysis shows that the control over the rate at which roots grow is shared between root and shoot, with most control being in the shoot. Corresponding Editor: D. A. Phillips. For reprints of this Special Feature, see footnote 1, p. 815
Ecology – Ecological Society of America
Published: Apr 1, 2003
Keywords: biosensors ; carbon flux ; control analysis ; exudation ; rhizosphere ; root border cells ; root cap
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